5 Best Whole Grains To Meal Prep (And Tasty Ways To Eat Them)

Plus, how to make them last up to 3 months!

May 10, 2017
grains in jars
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If you’re not sure where to start with your weekend meal prep, we have one piece of advice: Whip up a batch or two of grains. (Then, work your way up to our list of the 10 best foods to meal prep so your meals are a breeze all week.) 

The beauty of grains is their versatility—they can pull double duty in both sweet and savory meals, easily be made into flavorful sides with the addition of a few spices, and add some necessary heft to lighter dishes such as salads and stir-fries. But many grains can take forever to cook, and no one wants to do that after a busy day at work, so prepping ahead is key. 

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Where do you start? Regardless of what grains you choose (except for maybe oats), a great tip for quicker weekday meals is to cook up a big batch of grains (or several) on Sunday and freeze them.

After you cook your grains per package instructions, simply spread them out on a rimmed baking sheet to cool for about 15 minutes, then load them into large sealable freezer bags, noting the number of servings on the bag, and and toss them in the freezer. The best part: They’ll keep for up to 3 months this way, compared to just a few days in the refrigerator. When you’re ready to eat your grains, simply warm them on the stovetop or in the microwave with a couple tablespoons of water. 

Now the only question is, which grains will you prep? While it’s a personal choice, we have 5 recommendations that are versatile and nutrient packed—plus delicious ways you can eat them. 

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brown rice
allison day
Brown rice

If you're going to meal prep a big batch of rice, always opt for brown rice. Around 75 percent of rice's nutrients—including nearly all the antioxidants, magnesium, phosphorus, and B vitamins contained in the healthy bran and germ—are lost in the milling process that turns brown rice white. Try it out for breakfast in this Brown Rice Breakfast Bowl with Peas and Pesto, or add some to this Cashew, Tofu & Broccoli Stir-Fry for your next Meatless Monday meal. 

millet
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Millet

All varieties of millet, a naturally gluten-free grain, have been shown to have high antioxidant activity and may even help reduce cholesterol. (Here are 12 more foods that lower cholesterol naturally.) Even better, millet grains are small, making them an ideal grain for morphing into creamy porridge. They're also great at latching onto the Asian-inspired flavors in this Toasted Millet Salad featuring salmon and snow peas. 

Related: 11 Healthiest Whole Grains You Should Be Eating

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quinoa stuffed peppers
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Quinoa

With quinoa's deliciously nutty taste and high fiber and protein content (it's one of these 6 easy vegetarian sources of protein), it's an ideal gluten-free grain to cook in one big batch and use as a base for your lunches throughout the week. Just add some veggies and a protein, and you’re good to go! Or you can get a little more creative and combine quinoa with beans and veggies to create these Black Bean Quinoa Veggie Burgers, or load it into these Spinach Artichoke Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers. But don't dismiss quinoa as a worthy breakfast option. We love this Quinoa Breakfast Porridge recipe from that utilizes leftover quinoa.  

farro
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Farro

We love farro because it's got some heft and a delicious nutty flavor and slightly chewy texture—the fact that it has more fiber than brown rice and quinoa doesn't hurt either. Farro feels downright hearty in comparison to light and fluffy millet and quinoa, which makes it a great topper for greens when a simple salad just won't cut it (this Roast Chicken Salad With Butternut Squash And Farro defintely won't leave you feeling hungry), or a great base for sauteed greens and poached eggs at breakfast. Farro is not gluten-free, so if you're looking for something with a similar texture and flavor that is, consider sorghum instead. 

Related: 6 Things That Happened When I Didn't Eat Grains For A Month

overnight blueberry oatmeal
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Oats

Oatmeal makes one heck of a healthy breakfast, thanks to its high fiber and (surprisingly) high protein content. And although it's one of those grains that we don't recommend making a big batch of and freezing, it's still smart to prep. Your best bet: overnight oats! (Watch out for these 6 mistakes you're making with your oatmeal.)

Simply add a ½ cup oats to as many mason jars as you want, then load on the toppings of your choice such as chopped nuts, dried fruit, cinnamon, and even a little nut butter. Then, at night, add some milk to the jar of oats you plan on eating the next day, and you’ll have a fresh grab-and-go breakfast by morning. We love these Blueberry Preserve Overnight Oats